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Great Britain’s Matthew Coward-Holley hailed a “phenomenal” bronze medal as his journey from aspiring rugby player to shooting star took him onto the Olympic podium in Tokyo.
As a teenager, Coward-Holley dreamt of playing for England until breaking his back twice and being forced to give up the sport.
He turned his attentions to shooting, which he had done as a hobby with his father as a child, and was a reserve for Team GB at the Rio Olympics but came to Japan as their leading medal hope after winning Britain’s first ever trap world title in 2019 and will leave as their second-successive medalist in the discipline, following Edward Ling’s bronze five years ago.
“[It’s] little bit of a mix of emotions,” he said. “I’m a little bit lost for words. It’s my first Olympics so to come away with a medal, it’s phenomenal.”
Coward-Holley had qualified second for the final but was on the back foot after missing twice in the second round but regained his composure with 14 successful shots on the bounce and ultimately did well to catch Jorge Martin Diaz to steal a medal, after the Mexican began the contest with a perfect streak of 19 without missing.
“Being my first Olympic final, the first little bit of the final is always that little bit of tension, that little bit of nerves,” he added. “But I think, ’you’ve got this far, you’ve just got to relax and trust yourself that you can do it’.”
Kuwait’s Abdulrahman Al Faihan was first to be eliminated from the six-man final, followed by China’s Haicheng Yu and Diaz, leaving Coward-Holley to battle with Czech pair Jiri Liptak and David Kostelecky for the medals.
Kostelecky had already seized the initiative, making 21 shots in a row to move three clear of his rivals but Coward-Holley and Liptak were level pegging going into the medal rounds until the Brit missed his third shot to slip one behind.
Liptak’s better qualifying position meant he would have needed to miss both of his remaining shots in the round to open the door for the Brit but he was foot-perfect to guarantee himself a silver.
Kostelecky was looking for his second Olympic title, 13 years after his first at the 2008 Beijing Games and took a three-shot lead into the final two rounds against his countryman, but the 46-year-old’s form deserted him and the pair ended up level on 43 apiece after 50 shots, forcing a shoot-off, in which Liptak prevailed after seven extra shots.
Earlier, history had been made in the women’s competition as Alessandra Perilli won bronze to claim San Marino’s first ever Olympic medal.
“This is my first Olympics but this is the first medal for me and for my country. We are a small country but very proud,” she said. “”They are for sure going crazy, crying.”
Slovakia’s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova finally claimed her first Olympic title after winning silver in Beijing and London, with America’s Kayle Browning taking the silver.